Why Are We Expecting Teens To Have It All Figured Out?

I feel like we are expecting too much of our teens.
I wonder if I am expecting too much from my teen.

“So, what do you want to do when you graduate?” I know it’s a common question to ask a teenager. I’ve done it. Growing up my parents often asked me this question, and now that my oldest is approaching the end of his sophomore year of high school, it feels like this question is being dumped on him wherever we go.

I’m kind of sick of it. 

Why do people ask 15 year olds what their future plans are?

Not only do people start asking your children (as soon as they turn 15) what school they want to attend (college is always assumed), they want to know what they are choosing for a career path.

We aren’t simply asking kids what they want to be when they grow up, it feels like we are expecting them to have it all figured out. Some kids do have a solid plan, but a lot don’t– and they shouldn’t be expected to. They are teenagers for cripes’ sake.

I didn’t have it all figured out at 15. Or when I graduated from high school.

Or when I graduated college.

I majored in English and wanted to go into publishing but was bored at my first job and decided my career would be in fashion even though I had zero fashion experience. I just wanted to be around clothes and jewelry. I wanted to dress other people, and wear high heels. I devoured the pages of fashion magazines, and drew clothing sketches.

But that doesn’t mean I had it “figured out.”

It took me a while to figure out what I wanted to do

Alas, the fashion industry was too fast-paced for me and if I wanted to further my career, I had to move to a bigger city but I’m a country girl who likes dirt roads and open fields. I wanted to keep chickens (I may be the only one wearing heels at the feed store but it’s the perfect balance for me.) 

So, I said goodbye to that life, and after having kids and putting my career on hold, I decided I really, really wanted to be a writer. 

And this is it for me.

What I’m saying is, it took me until the age of 40 to get my career “figured out.”

I know I’m not alone. I’ve talked to people who went to school for finance but sat at a desk for two weeks and felt like they were slowly dying inside.

I know someone who has a law degree, and after practicing for a few years decided to follow her passion and become an interior decorator. This surprised her because she always thought she’d be a lawyer. When she changed her mind she worried about what other people would think about her decision to leave law after working her butt off in law school.

There are very few of us who have our career path figured out at 25, much less 15.

I want my teenagers to feel that life is fluid, not linear. They are going to become many different versions of themselves through the decades. The last thing they need to stress out right now about is mapping out exactly who they are going to be and what they are going to do.

I’ve never heard anyone say to a teenager, “Well, you might change your mind over the years, and that’s okay.”

My goal is to raise confident kids and to remind them that they are allowed to be wrong about what they thought they wanted. They are allowed to change their minds and that life will include taking a wrong turn now and then.

Life is fluid and there is nothing wrong with change

I didn’t always think that way. When they were younger, I thought they’d have a solid life plan by the time they graduated high school.

But as the questions about what my kids were planning to do when they graduated rolled in, I realized I didn’t have a clue when I was their age (even though I kind of thought I did). It took me a long time to figure it out, and they need to hear the truth. It may take them some time and they may need to have some work experiences before they figure out their career path.

It’s totally normal to be uncertain at their age. There’s a difference between giving a career a chance, and feeling like you are stuck doing something that doesn’t satisfy you simply because you have a degree in that area.

Our teens don’t have it all figured out, nor should they

Our teens don’t need to have it all figured out. A lucky few might, but most of them don’t. And a lot of them will need to learn from experience and trial and error. Not only is that okay, it seems to me that it’s more it’s a healthier way for the future generation of kids to look at their future.

Also, if they think they have it figured out, we need to remind them that it’s okay if they want to change their mind. The fact that I took as long as I did to find my career path, and changed my mind many times along the way, is the reason I’m so happy and fulfilled now.

I wouldn’t change the journey that got me here in any way.

More to Read:

Here’s Why You Should Help Your Kid Get a Job

Parents, Please Don’t Attend Your Young Adult’s Job Interview (Seriously)

About Katie BinghamSmith

Katie Bingham-Smith lives in Maine with her three kids. She is a Staff Writer at Scary Mommy, shoe addict and pays her kids to rub her feet. You can see more of her on Facebook and Instagram .

Read more posts by Katie

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